SCEC Science Plan


The Southern California Earthquake Center (SCEC) was founded as a Science & Technology Center on February 1, 1991, with joint funding by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS). SCEC graduated from the STC Program in 2002 and has been funded as a stand-alone center under cooperative agreements with both agencies in four consecutive phases: SCEC2, 1 Feb 2002 to 31 Jan 2007; SCEC3, 1 Feb 2007 to 31 Jan 2012; SCEC4, 1 Feb 2012 to 31 Jan 2017; and SCEC5, 1 May 2017 to 30 Apr 2022. NSF has extended SCEC5 for a 6th year and the USGS has invited a separate bridge proposal to span the anticipated 2 year time period for the start of a potential new earthquake center SCEC coordinates fundamental research on earthquake processes using Southern California as its main natural laboratory.

SCEC involves over 1,000 scientists at more than 90 institutions in its research program. SCEC’s research program is investigator-driven and open to anyone who is willing to submit a qualified project plan for peer review. SCEC funding supports research and education in seismology, tectonic geodesy, earthquake geology, computational science, and many interdisciplinary studies in earthquake science.

The core funding is allocated through an annual planning process that involves input from the entire SCEC community, as well as counsel from an external Advisory Council and the sponsoring agencies. A SCEC Science Plan is released each fall, which solicits proposals from individuals and groups to participate in the SCEC research program for the following year. Every year, more than 150-175 proposals are submitted to SCEC. These projects involve over 200 distinct investigators and many more graduate students and other early career scientists. Every proposal is reviewed and about 80 subawards are executed on an annual basis (each project typically ranging from $10,000 to $35,000). About two-thirds of the SCEC science budget goes to students and early-career scientists engaged in research.

Questions not answered in the Science Plan? Email proposals[at]
Questions about the online SCEC Proposal System? Email web[at]


Investigator Eligibility

Any person eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) at a U.S. academic institution or private corporation based in the U.S. may submit a proposal to SCEC. Recipients of SCEC funds from Federal sources must be able to demonstrate their ability to comply fully with the requirements specified in 2 CFR § 200, Uniform Administrative Requirements, Cost Principles, and Audit Requirements for Federal Awards.

Collaborative proposals involving non-U.S. participants will be considered provided the proposal (1) clearly states how the investigator from the non-U.S. institution is critical to the project and (2) the requested budget for the international participant only includes direct costs (e.g. travel support). The funding for research requested on such projects should only be for the U.S. portion of the collaborative effort.

Collaborative proposals with investigators from the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA (including JPL) are encouraged. USGS and NASA employees should submit requests for support through USGS and NASA channels, respectively.

Any person with an overdue project report (for prior SCEC-funded awards) at the time of the proposal deadline will not be allowed to submit a new or continuation proposal as a PI or co-PI.

How to Submit Proposals

Every investigator listed on the proposal must have a registered account on, with current contact information and profile information updated. Proposals must be submitted through the SCEC Proposal System. SCEC does not require that proposals be formally signed by institutional representatives at this stage; however, official documents including a signed letter of intent will be required within 30 days of award notification.

Project Duration

The proposed project period should be 1-year duration (starting February 1, 2022 and ending January 31, 2023).

SCEC involves over 1,000 scientists at more than 90 institutions in its research program. The SCEC research program is investigator-driven and open to anyone who is willing to submit a qualified project plan for peer review. The core resources are allocated through an annual planning process, so the roster changes constantly as new people and institutions become involved in the SCEC research collaboration. This annual review of the research program (and associated subcontracts) allows SCEC to drive and change the direction of research as needed to meet the program goals. The fact that this is done on an annual basis with so many people and institutions involved is a unique characteristic of SCEC. Therefore, every effort is made to ensure projects funded through the annual process are for 1-year duration only.

Proposal Contents

Every proposal submitted must include all of the contents listed below. Proposals must be received through the online system by the due date, with all required information, to be considered complete. Incomplete proposals may be rejected and returned without comment.

1. Cover Page. The proposal cover page should include all the following information, which will be required when submitting the proposal online:

  • Project Title, Principal Investigator(s), and Institutional Affiliation(s)
  • Total Amount of Request on Proposal, Amount of Request per Investigator
  • Proposal Category (see Section 3)
  • Three SCEC science priorities, listed in ranked order, that the proposal addresses (e.g. P4.c, P3.d and P2.a; see Section 2).

2. Project Plan. In 5 pages maximum (including all figures), describe the proposed project and how it relates to SCEC5 objectives and priorities (see Section 2). References are excluded from the 5-page limit. The Project Plan section of the proposal should follow NSF guidelines for Proposal Font, Spacing and Margin Requirements, namely:

  • Use one of the following fonts identified below:
    • Arial (not Arial Narrow), Courier New, or Palatino Linotype at a font size of 10 points or larger;
    • Times New Roman at a font size of 11 points or larger; or
    • Computer Modern family of fonts at a font size of 11 points or larger.
  • A font size of less than 10 points may be used for mathematical formulas or equations, figures, tables or diagram captions.
  • No more than six lines of text within a vertical space of one inch.
  • Margins, in all directions, must be at least an inch. No proposer-supplied information may appear in the margins.
  • Paper size must be no larger than standard letter paper size (8.5 by 11").

Other considerations to include in the Project Plan:

  • Previous Support or Multiple Proposals. Every proposal must include a section reporting on the PI(s) research results from projects previously-funded by SCEC, and/or how concurrent proposal submissions are related to or complement each other, if applicable. This section should emphasize how such efforts relate to, or distinguished themselves from, the current proposal. This section counts toward the 5-page limit.

  • Continuation Projects. If the proposed project is a continuation of a prior SCEC award, the project plan must include a 1-page summary of the research results obtained from that SCEC funding. This summary is counted towards the 5-page limit. Continuation proposals must have a section outlining how the proposed research relates to the SCEC5 science objectives.

  • Technical Activity Proposals. TAG proposals should include a research coordination plan that sets a timetable for successful completion of TAG activities no later than the end of SCEC5. The research coordination plan is counted towards the 5-page limit.

  • Workshop Proposals. Workshop proposals that include travel support for international participants must clearly state how such participants are critical to the workshop.

  • Transitions Program Proposals. Proposals should clearly articulate how the proposed activity (workshops, seminars, short courses, or other types of training experiences) aligns with the Transitions Program priorities. The project plan should indicate how the activity will (i) expand their competency in using earthquake research tools and techniques and (ii) increase awareness of geoscience career pathways and advancement opportunities.

3. Budget and Budget Justification. Every proposal must include a budget table and budget justification for each institution requesting funding. The budgets should be constructed using NSF categories. The budget and budget justification do not count toward the 5-page limit of the Project Plan. Budget and budget justification must be included in the single PDF version of the proposal submitted through the online system. This is in addition to (and does not replace) the budget information that is input into the online forms. Proposals without a complete budget and budget justification will be rejected and returned without review.

  • Budget Guidance. Typical SCEC awards range from $10,000 to $35,000. This is not intended to limit SCEC to a fixed award amount, nor to a specified number of awards, but rather to calibrate expectations for proposals written by SCEC investigators.

  • Field Research. Field investigations outside southern California may be considered, provided the proposed research clearly demonstrates direct relevance to SCEC5 goals that are not achievable within the southern California natural laboratory.

  • Uniformity of Budget Information. For each organization requesting funding, the complete budget information must be entered through the online submission system. This information should also be included in the PDF uploaded at the time of proposal submission. While the SCEC Planning Committee evaluates all budget requests based on the standard NSF budget categories, funded proposals may be contracted on other bases (e.g., fixed-price milestones, direct stipend support, etc).

  • Salary Support. An investigator can receive no more than 1 month of summer salary support in any given year from all combined SCEC funded awards in that year. Research faculty (or similar personnel) whose salary is funded solely from external grants are exempted from this maximum 1-month funding rule.

  • SCEC Research Computing and Cyberinfrastructure Support. Investigators requesting research computing and/or cyberinfrastructure support should clearly state in their proposal an estimate of the level of effort (in terms of days, weeks or months of developer time) required. If known, specify the capabilities and SCEC software and developer(s) needed to achieve the proposed project plans. Prior to proposal submission, investigators should contact Tran Huynh ( to ascertain the relevant SCEC capabilities that may contribute to the proposed project, as well as guidance on the developer level of effort needed. Estimates of developer time requested should be entered in the online budget form.

  • Undergraduate Student Funding. Investigators proposing projects that include undergraduate student support are encouraged to explore funding for the student(s) directly through SCEC’s internship programs (see Section 3.2.3). Support for undergraduate students to be funded through the SCEC Intern Program should not be included in the proposed budget. Include in the budget justification the intent to seek undergraduate funding through the SCEC Intern Program and the number of undergraduate students anticipated to work on the project.

  • International Travel Funding Support. Funding for international travel to participate in the SCEC activities will be considered, provided the proposal clearly states (a) how the investigators are critical to the project and (b) a plan for how the international participant’s institution will cost-share the anticipated travel expenses. The requested international funding support should not exceed $1,500 per person in the proposed budget.

  • Unallowable Direct Expenses. Under guidelines of the SCEC Cooperative Agreements and Uniform Guidance, secretarial support and office supplies are not allowable as direct expenses.

  • Indirect Costs. Proposal budgets should include appropriate Indirect Costs, using the institution’s federally Negotiated Indirect Cost Rate Agreement (NICRA). If no NICRA is available, investigators should contact to determine if they qualify for funding from SCEC.

4. Current and Pending Support. Accurate and up-to-date statements of current and pending support must be included for each Principal Investigator requesting funding on the proposal. The current and pending support do not count toward the 5-page limit of the Project Plan. Current and pending support must be included in the single PDF version of the proposal submitted through the online system. This is in addition to (and does not replace) the current and pending support information that should also be input in the online forms. Proposals without a complete current and pending support statement will be rejected and returned without review.

  • Each investigator requesting funding must enter their current and pending support information through the online submission system. This information must also be included in the PDF uploaded at the time of proposal submission.

  • If identical or closely related work is also proposed to another institution (e.g., National Science Foundation, U.S. Geological Survey) for funding, an explanation of the relationship of such work to this proposal should be provided through the online system, as well as in the submitted PDF.

  • Workshop Proposals. Current and pending support information is not required from investigators on workshop proposals.